The ADA Project

11 — 31 Oct 2014 at The Vinyl Factory in London, United Kingdom

6 OCTOBER 2014
Tamara Barnett Herrin, Photographed by Conrad Shawcross Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro London
Tamara Barnett Herrin, Photographed by Conrad Shawcross Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro London

The Vinyl Factory is proud to present The ADA Project by Conrad Shawcross at its exhibition space at Brewer Street Car Park in Soho, London.

For the project, four renowned female musicians created works in response to the movements of an industrial robot that has been hacked and programmed by the artist to create four unique choreographies. In this first-of-its-kind collaborative artwork, Conrad Shawcross takes a new approach to commissioning music, reversing the traditional process, so that the robot’s dance provides the inspiration and parameters for the music. On the evening of 10 October, Dillon & Clervaux, Mira Calix, Tamara Barnett Herrin & Mylo will perform their compositions live.

Each composition will be pressed by The Vinyl Factory as one of four limited edition laser etched 12” vinyl records, each accompanied by one of four artist’s prints, hand signed and numbered by Conrad Shawcross. The singles alone will also be available as a larger edition.

For this piece Shawcross found inspiration from Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) the mathematician (and daughter of Lord Byron). Working alongside Charles Babbage, inventor of the first proto-computer, Lovelace predicted that this complex counting machine “might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent”, pre-empting the birth of programmed music by more than a century.

The musicians, all of whom use electronic programming in their work, worked closely with Shawcross in his studio discussing Babbage and Lovelace's discoveries, and studying the robot as it played out one of four programmed patterns created by the artist. Each distinctive pattern is based on ratios and drawings for the computer which Babbage never fully realised, a fact that provides added significance to the programming that depicts them and the computer generated music which they inspire.

From this fertile source of inspiration, the compositions have grown in broadly different ways:

  • Beatrice Dillon in collaboration with Rupert Clervaux uses the robot as percussion, sampling rhythms played on different parts of its housing. This was edited with field recordings of the engine, the vibration of the tripod legs and the tonal resonance of the machine’s metal parts.

  • Using a combination of vocal processing, synthesis and recordings of the robot in motion, Holly Herndon attempts to emote the sentience implied in the robot's movements as she curiously probes and surveys her environment.

  • For her composition titled If Then While For Mira Calix creates a narrative lament in which soprano Teresa Duddy sings to the robot, willing it to fall in love with her. The machine’s movement of languid strokes suggests that it reciprocates her overtures.

  • Songwriter and vocalist Tamara Barnett Herrin (Freeform Five) backed by DJ / Producer Mylo, sings Ada, Make a Bed For Your Phoenix, which links mathematics with disco through their shared power to induce ecstatic states.

Following the opening night of performances, visitors of the exhibition will be able to select their chosen programme and related musical composition from a panel of four triggers. Open daily to the public with food by Arabeschi di Latte, the top floor of the car park in Soho is set to become one of London's most captivating Autumn destinations and cultural meeting points throughout 'Frieze Week' and beyond.

The exhibition coincides with Ada Lovelace Day, Tuesday 14 October 2014, celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

The Vinyl Factory and Conrad Shawcross The ADA Project is at The Vinyl Factory Space at Brewer Street Car Park, 11 October - 31 October 2014